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Web Privacy


With Inria

Lecturer

Dr. Nataliia BIELOVA (Inria)

Summary

Web Privacy is a cross-disciplinary course that aims to explain the problems of privacy in the context of Web browsing, in online social networks and in apps on smartphones. The goal of the course is to explain how modern technologies collect users’ data, and what tools can be used to protect privacy online. We also explain basic legal rights related to privacy, introduce a privacy measurements research area and how it influences companies’ practices, web standards and laws in Europe.

Summary: Billions of users browse the Web on a daily basis, leaving their digital traces on millions of websites. Every such visit, every mouse move or button click may trigger a wide variety of hidden data exchanges across multiple tracking companies. As a result, these companies collect a vast amount of user’s data, preferences and habits that are extremely useful for online advertisers and profitable for data brokers, however very worrisome for the privacy of the users.

In this course, we set several objectives in order to teach students about technologies used in today’s Web applications that allow companies to track users and collect their browsing history. We will analyze privacy policies, Web browser settings and existing tools that help protect privacy of users. We will explain privacy implications of the design choices in Web applications, possible solutions to mitigate privacy risks of end users, and finally raise awareness among students about problems of privacy on the Web. The goals of the course are the following.

  1. We will cover the vide variety of Web tracking technologies, ranging from simple cookies to advanced cross-device fingerprinting. We will describe the main mechanisms behind web tracking and demonstrate that different varieties of tracking mechanisms are already adopted on almost every website.
  2. We will explain mechanisms behind targeted advertisement, how does it work and raise major privacy concerns  of Web users in digital advertising.
  3. We will teach to identify the privacy concerns that arise when they build their own applications. For example, when designing a new website that includes advertisement and “Like” buttons, what could possibly go wrong for the future user’s privacy? We will explain how social networks, such as Facebook, could collect information and shopping habits of users who do not even have a Facebook account.
  4. We will explain how to relate these privacy concerns with the technical design choices and existing industrial and research solutions. For example, what privacy risks arise from relying on third-party unique identifiers? Or from centralizing the storage of data?
  5. We will explain how privacy technologies can be compared and evaluated. For example, we will study how existing mechanisms effectively protect from Web tracking, and how to compare the level of such protection.
  6. We will explain some basic legal rights related to privacy that we have in the European Union regarding our information (such as right to access, and informed consent for tracking from GDPR/ePrivacy). As a result, students will be able to form their own informed decisions about privacy issues on the Web and be able to exercise the rights they have.

Prerequisites

No